Did you know that there’s a Universal Children’s Day? Do you know that you have rights?
They were the two big questions that we had for our young people in October and we were really interested to hear what their answers would be.
Universal Children’s Day is an annual event that’s all about promoting and celebrating the rights of the child worldwide. This is obviously something we at The Ark are eager to get behind. So for this session, we brought back the amazing film makers at Macalla Teoranta to document our rights based workshop and collaborate with us on a new film piece all about the rights of the child.
We started the day a little differently to our previous sessions. A lot of planning had gone into this particular day because not only were our Children’s Council coming to the workshop- but we had also extended the invitation to 20 other young people from different schools across the city.
I’ve gotten used to working with quite a small group of council members so I was very excited for the challenge of new blood! I was also really eager to see our council members host a little bit. They obviously feel as though they have a little bit more agency in the space now so I was hopeful that they would really take the lead and let the new group get comfortable in the same way.
Our day began with a drama workshop around our wants, deserves and ultimately- our rights. The demand of a group twice our usual size gave the exercises a great energy and urgency. We improvised a lot around simple scenarios where a young person asks for something but are refused for some reason. This stretched from simple things like hoodies, all the way to hospital visits. We were slowly building our way into the territory of the United Nations Charter on the Rights of the Child- although I can’t say our group were too aware of where I was leading them.
When it finally came to discussing our rights and what we knew about them, I was surprised to see a lot of the young people were in the dark. Daragh, for example, knew that adults had rights but had no idea that there was a whole separate charter specifically for young people.
From here, we moved upstairs and started to make posters and signs that represented our rights in society. This was led by Duffy who guided the group through some visual ways to represent our message and opinions. You can see some of those designs below and they feature heavily in the video itself.
While this was happening, Liam was working with Naoise, Ella and Rowan on a protest chant while Macalla Teoranta interviewed the others on what they knew about rights and what they thought certain rights represented on the charter.
As an artist, I often make work that deals with the rights of others in some way or form. However, I don’t think I would use the term rights very often myself. By trying to adopt these terms into our everyday conversations about what we need and deserve, I hope our young people are motivated to speak out against the injustices they see in their lives every day.
It’s all very well letting children know that they have rights- but there’s no use in that unless we mobilise them to act on them and demand them. As we all know, there are many young people in Ireland who are not receiving the full benefit of what we say they’re entitled to.
What’s the point in having a charter of rights unless we’re all demanding its implementation?
Please take the time to show our video to your young people and educate them on their rights.
Shaun Dunne is The Ark's Artist in Residence